Warroad, East Grand Forks set for Section 8A showdown

Feb. 27—EAST GRAND FORKS — Warroad coach Jay Hardwick warned his team before the Minnesota Section 8A boys hockey semifinal not to look past Thief River Falls.

Upsets do happen, he said.

"Fortunately, we did take care of business," Hardwick said. "Here we are. Now, it's the game everyone has been waiting for."

It's East Grand Forks Senior High vs. Warroad for the Section 8A championship at 7 p.m. Thursday in The Gardens.

The winner will go to the state tournament in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center.

It's a showdown that has been anticipated since the start of the season and it's played out exactly as expected.

The Green Wave (18-8-1) are the section's top seed and state's No. 3-ranked team. The Warriors (22-5) are the second seed and the state's No. 4-ranked team.

This will be the eighth time they've met in a section final in the last 12 years. Senior High has won five of the previous seven, but Warroad won last year.

"Obviously, both teams know each other extremely well, just with the history over the last couple years," Green Wave coach Tyler Palmiscno said. "They have an unbelievable hockey team, there's no doubt. Their top-end talent is as good as anyone in the state. They're extremely skilled. If you give them time and space, they have the ability to make you pay."

The teams split their regular-season meetings.

Warroad beat East Grand Forks 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 22 in Thief River Falls. UND commit Carson Pilgrim scored twice, including the overtime winner.

Three weeks ago, the Green Wave beat the Warriors 6-3 in the East Grand Forks Civic Center. Brock Schultz had a four-point night.

"They play extremely hard," Hardwick said. "They're tough to play against. They finish checks. They go through people. They work really hard. So, if you don't show up ready for that, they're going to make it difficult on you."

One of the key matchups will be Pilgrim vs. Schultz.

They are the highest-profile players on each team. They each center their team's top line.

Pilgrim, a Mr. Hockey finalist, is one of the most dynamic players in the state. He's a speedy skater and a good finisher. This season, he has 29 goals and 60 points in 27 games. A season ago, he had 52 goals and 92 points.

"They're beatable," Schultz said. "There are ways we can beat them, but they're also a very good team and we have to respect that.

"We have to tire out their D-men and the top players on their team. We have to use our depth."

Schultz is an excellent two-way forward. He has 23 goals and 53 points in 27 games this season, but is projected to be a shutdown centerman at higher levels.

"He's a heck of a player," Pilgrim said. "Props to him for all the success he's had through his career. He plays hard. He's a very talented player, so you can't give him a lot of time and space, because he might make you pay."

The Green Wave also lean on their top defensemen — Grady Magner, Cole Bies, Judd Pesch and Nick Corbett.

Up front, Landon Jamieson is a big producer with 18 goals and 37 points.

"Obviously, Brock's important," Palmiscno said. "But in order for us to have success, we have to have 20 guys play the game the right way. That's the foundation of our group. That's the identity. We work on the right side of pucks, track hard, make opponents go through layers. That's not going to change, because of our opponent. We've had the same philosophy all year."

Warroad's top line does most of its scoring.

In addition to Pilgrim, right wing Taven James has 20 goals and 57 points, while left wing Murray Marvin-Cordes has 22 goals and 47 points.

On the back end, Ryan Lund (18 goals, 39 points) plays massive minutes. He's eclipsed the 43-minute mark at least twice this season.

"I've been preaching all year, when we're good on the defensive end, it leads to offense," Hardwick said. "If we take care of our end, make the right plays, we have players that are going to do things offensively. They can make things happen."

Pilgrim said the Warriors can't wait to play in the game.

"It's definitely exciting," Pilgrim said. "For us seniors, it will be the last time playing in our home rink, the rink where we've been playing since we were little kids. Win or lose, there might be some tears shed."

Who: EGF Senior High (No. 1 seed) vs. Warroad (No. 2 seed).

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: The Gardens, Warroad.

Records: Senior High 18-8-1; Warroad 22-5.

Of note: This is the eighth time in 12 years Senior High and Warroad have met in the section title game.

2023 — Warroad 5, East Grand Forks 1

2022 — Warroad 4, Thief River Falls 1

2021 — East Grand Forks 5, Warroad 4, 2OT

2020 — Warroad 4, East Grand Forks 0

2019 — East Grand Forks 3, Warroad 1

2018 — Thief River Falls 4, East Grand Forks 0

2017 — East Grand Forks 5, Warroad 1

2016 — Thief River Falls 3, East Grand Forks 1

2015 — East Grand Forks 4, Thief River Falls 3, OT

2014 — East Grand Forks 3, Warroad 2, 2OT

2013 — East Grand Forks 2, Warroad 0